Title: The Rational Faculty
Series: Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords Book One
Author: Gregory Ashe
Length: 325 Pages
At a Glance: The Rational Faculty encompasses so many aspects which all vie for equal attention—humor, pathos, suspense, action, love, murder and mayhem, danger, corruption, and on and on—yet the cumulative details never feel cumbersome or insincere or unrealistic. It’s a balancing act that is achieved in Ashe’s work, with precision, every time.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Three months have passed since Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset faced a madman and lived to tell about it.
Three months have passed since Emery Hazard resigned from his job as a detective.
Three months can be too long and too short, all at the same time.
On Halloween, a professor at the local college is murdered in his apartment, in front of dozens of witnesses. Then the killer disappears. Somers is assigned the case—and a new partner.
While Somers investigates the murder, Hazard struggles to find purpose in his new freedom. Despite his decision to stay away, he finds himself drawn to the case. But he’s no longer police, and in the small town of Wahredua, not all of his former colleagues are happy to see him investigating another crime.
When the sheriff’s son and husband go missing, though, the case becomes more complicated than either Hazard or Somers had expected. And soon they learn that someone else is manipulating events in Wahredua.
Someone who is very interested in Emery Hazard.
Review: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop” is one variant of a proverb that goes hand in hand with an integral part of the story author Gregory Ashe has laid out for his readers in The Rational Faculty. Emery Hazard’s mind needs stimulation and input/output the same way he needs air to survive. His brain without a Gordian Knot to untangle is suffocating him and does nothing but give his demons a fertile playground. The result is a Hazard who’s struggling with depression, his thoughts veering into a territory where suicidal ideation meets feelings of his taking up space in a world with no sense of reason or purpose. The Emery Hazard who is no longer a police officer is an Emery Hazard who no longer makes sense, and all his cues, both verbal and non-, leave readers with little doubt whatsoever that he is stumbling, untethered, his anger and distress keeping pace with the frustration he feels at the loss of his structure and definition. Ashe doesn’t gloss over the real and present aftermath of Hazard being cut loose from the Wahredua PD, how it’s affected him emotionally as well as him and John intimately, and how the discomfort of broaching the subject of Emery’s free fall means that putting these things into words is sometimes more miss than hit. Ashe didn’t put a bright romantic spin on things in this novel, falling in love didn’t fix everything for Hazard and Somerset, and rightfully so. As a result, and as has always been the case for them, their personal struggles exist alongside the murder investigation rather than one superseding the other.
For those who have read the Borealis Investigations series (it’s not imperative, but why wouldn’t you?), we know that Hazard has been flirting with the idea of becoming a private investigator. Or, maybe it’s been more Somers who has floated the idea, and Emery hasn’t entirely, grumpily, Hazard-ly, written it off. Whichever the case, when James Fabbri, a professor at the local university, is murdered in plain sight, on Halloween night, but with not a single reliable eye-witness, Ashe integrates their relationship hurdles with the procedural aspects we have come to expect, and everything begins to coalesce because of the case—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hazard is not unlike a hound on the scent. Once his mind and his intense desire to solve a crime are engaged, there is little that will stop him. Unless it hurts Somers… Emery keeping his investigation a secret from John was a clear mistake, and the impact of his interference in the case on their relationship is not insignificant. The effect on Somers is acute. There is a thread of tension pulled taut between them which feels like it could snap without much provocation; that is made abundantly clear through every thought, word, and action in the narrative. Emery and John being wrong-footed over the loss of their professional partnership is impactful, and it underscores the way they are attempting to weave their lives together at home. Moreover, they are still processing the aftermath of their confrontation with Mikey Grimes months earlier, which, all things combined, means readers are not given to feelings of comfort. But, that Emery and John love each other is clear, it’s indisputable, so we also understand that if they just keep reaching for each other, they will make it, come what may.
Of course, with Hazard off the force, it means Somers gets a new partner in the form of a bit of a fratboy dudebro named Gray Dulac. He seems like he’s going to be an all right guy—fist bumps and dudebroishness aside—but then again, I don’t trust him yet. He hasn’t earned it, and if there’s anything I’ve learned along the way, it’s that just because someone carries a badge for the Wahredua police department, it doesn’t mean they aren’t dirty. Plus, there’s still a killer on the loose and until Hazard and Somerset solve the mystery, anyone and everyone is suspect. Sociopolitical extremism is also at the fore again in this installment—white supremacy, xenophobia, homophobia, radicalized ideologies, et al—and it serves as both an upfront issue as well as a potential red herring in the murders. As usual, Ashe doles out the details with the proper amount of subterfuge and obfuscation to keep readers on the edge and the mystery tight.
And while the body count rises, so does the mounting evidence that the murders this time are aimed directly at Emery Hazard.
The authenticity of the overt and underlying issues is evident in every word, page, and chapter of the story. It’s obvious that Ashe knows these characters so well, and it’s also rather obvious he loves them, but even as character rich as the Hazard and Somerset series has been all along, and which still remains true in this new chapter of their lives, it is Ashe’s elegance in composing a series of murders—in some remarkable and truly shocking ways, I might add—and the accompanying composite pieces and parts that go into the investigation, that remains indisputable. The problem with attempting to write a review for a Gregory Ashe novel is the inability to find the proper words to describe the density and complexity of his storytelling. It encompasses so many aspects which all vie for equal attention—humor, pathos, suspense, action, love, murder and mayhem, danger, corruption, and on and on—yet the cumulative details never feel cumbersome or insincere or unrealistic. It’s a balancing act that is achieved, with precision, every time. These characters and the series itself are the pinnacle of the Mystery genre as far as I’m concerned, and Ashe has yet to disappoint.
You can buy The Rational Faculty here:
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